U.S. 2009 reliability report shows Japanese cars leading
The American Consumer Reports publication, quite possibly the only unbiased magazine in the world with no ads whatsoever, has released the results of their latest survey to determine the most reliable and least reliable cars sold in the United States.
Ford has secured its position as the only Detroit automaker with “world-class” reliability. About 90% of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln products were found to have average or better reliability, according to the Consumer Reports 2009 Annual Car Reliability Survey. Other than the Toyota Prius hybrid, the reliability of the 4-cylinder Fusion and Milan ranks higher than that of any other family sedan. Both of those Ford Motor Company products beat the U.S. versions of the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry, both built in North America, while the upscale Lincoln MKZ tops its rivals, the Acura TL and Lexus ES. The Ford Flex also did well, but many others didn’t. All-wheel-drive versions of the Lincoln MKS, MKX, and MKZ, all based on Ford models, are all below average.
A large margin separates the best from the worst. The least reliable vehicle overall, the Volkswagen Touareg, is “27 times more likely to have a problem than the most reliable car,” which happens to be the Honda Insight.
Among the least reliable vehicles in their respective classes are the all-wheel-drive Lexus GS, the Nissan Versa (Tiida) sedan, and the Subaru Impreza WRX.
Some newer GM products are bright spots. Almost half of all GM models have average reliability scores, while the Chevrolet Malibu V6 has shown better-than-average scores and is on par with the most reliable family sedans. The Chevrolet Traverse also makes the cut, but only in the all-wheel-drive version. The reliability scores of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups has improved enough to earn Consumer Reports’ Recommendation. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on the Annual Auto Survey, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
Chrysler continues to struggle. More than one-third of Chrysler products are much worse than average, including its new car-based SUV, the Dodge Journey. This year, CR can only recommend the four-wheel-drive version of the redesigned Dodge Ram 1500 pickup.
Of the 48 models with top reliability scores, 36 are Asian — Toyota accounts for 18; Honda, eight; Nissan, four; and Hyundai/Kia and Subaru, three each. With only a few exceptions, Japanese vehicles are consistently good. All Honda and Acura products have average or above average reliability. Although, Toyota, with its Lexus and Scion brands, provides a broader product range, the Lexus GS AWD is the only Toyota model with below average reliability.
Models from Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division have mostly been very reliable. The once-troublesome Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Armada are now average, as is the four-wheel-drive Nissan Titan, although its rear-wheel-drive version is still troublesome. The Mexican-built Nissan Versa (Tiida) has produced uneven results. Over the last two surveys, the hatchback has been average while the sedan has been far below average. Ironically, Nissan is mulling over plans to replace the Japanese-built Tiida with the Mexican Versa in the Middle East.
Hyundai and Kia continue to make reliable cars. The Hyundai Elantra and Tucson, and the Kia Sportage get top marks. The new Hyundai Genesis V6 is better than average. The V8 version is average. Only Kia’s Sedona and Sorento score below average.
European brands continue to improve. Mercedes-Benz has significantly rebounded, with most models average or better, and the GLK did exceptionally well in its first year in CR’s survey. Scores from rival BMW are more mixed. The 535i sedan and X3 SUV declined in reliability, and the 135i, debuting in this survey, scores below average. Some BMW models have average or better reliability.
The magazine also claims that Volkswagen and Audi are “staging a nice reliability recovery,” although we have doubts over that claim, since the top new models, the Volkswagen Passat CC and the Audi A4 are both rated based on only one year’s worth of data. The new VW Tiguan is average, while the Audi Q7 continues to be much worse than average, but not as bad as its platform mate, the VW Touareg.
All of Volvo’s sedans are average or better, but Volvo’s XC90 SUV is below average. Porsche, which has been doing quite well in the survey of late, has one serious hiccup this year. The Boxster drops to below average. But the Cayenne improved to average.
Findings are based on responses on more than 1.4 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or its paid website. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2009 and covered model years 2000 to 2009.
Consumer Reports’ expert team of statisticians and automotive engineers used the survey data to predict reliability of new 2010 models. Predicted reliability is CR’s forecast of how well models currently on sale are likely to hold up. To calculate predicted-reliability ratings, CR averages the overall reliability scores (used car verdicts) for the most recent three model years, provided that the model remained unchanged in that period and also didn’t substantially change for 2010. If a model was new or redesigned in the past couple of years, one or two years’ data may be used, or if that’s all that’s available.
Occasionally, Consumer Reports may recommend a redesigned model too new to have compiled a reliability record if the previous generation, and the manufacturer’s reliability track record has been consistently outstanding, and if the model meets the other criteria.